1963 church bombing survivor seeks apology, restitution

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Sarah Collins Rudolph and her husband, George Rudolph, discuss their worries about the upcoming Donald Trump presidency in their home in Birmingham, Ala..  Rudolph, the survivor of the 1963 church bombing that killed four little girls, is seeking an apology and restitution from the state of Alabama.  (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2016 file photo, Sarah Collins Rudolph and her husband, George Rudolph, discuss their worries about the upcoming Donald Trump presidency in their home in Birmingham, Ala.. Rudolph, the survivor of the 1963 church bombing that killed four little girls, is seeking an apology and restitution from the state of Alabama. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves) (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

More than a dozen sticks of dynamite planted by Ku Klux Klansmen exploded at a Birmingham church in 1963, killing four Black girls.

The “fifth little girl,” Sarah Collins Rudolph, survived but still has shards of glass in her body from the blast that took her sister, her right eye and her dreams of becoming a nurse. Rudolph, 69, is now seeking an apology from the state and compensation for what she says has been a lifetime of trauma.

A law firm working for free on Rudolph’s behalf sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey arguing that the words of state leaders, including Gov. George Wallace, at the time encouraged the racial violence that led to one of the most infamous acts of the civil rights era. Attorney Ishan K. Bhabha said Rudolph's story “cries out for justice.”

“Her life was put on a fundamentally different track in an instant as a little girl,” said Bhabha.

The state has yet to respond to Rudolph.

The five girls were gathered in a downstairs washroom at Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church on the morning of Sept. 15, 1963, when a timed bomb planted by KKK members went off outside under a set of stairs. The blast killed Denise McNair, 11, and three 14-year-olds: Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, who was Rudolph’s sister.

Rudolph recalled that she and her sister had gone to the washroom to freshen up after walking to church. The other girls came in after their Sunday school class finished.

Denise asked Addie to tie the sash on her dress, Rudolph recalled.